Tarnished Copper

Verdigris nails

Verdigris is the patina formed when copper, brass or bronze is exposed to air or water. Verdigris, meaning "green of Greece", has been used as a painters pigment since the classical era. Today, it's seldom used due to its toxicity and fickle colour; a vibrant green-cyan which tends to degrade into brown to dark green over the years. Luckily, when faking the effect with nail polish the colours will hold up!
Tarnished copper, or verdigris, nails

8 steps for a verdigris look, with bonus chemistry lesson

I used a spoon instead of nails in the tutorial, as my nails were already painted.
1. I used three shades in the turquoise-cyan range, and two copper-bronze. If you only have one of each, that is fine too. The polishes depicted here is, from left to right:
  • Isadora Bel-Air Blue
  • Isadora Marzipan
  • China Glaze For Audrey
  • Nails Inc Old Park Lane
  • OPI Brisbane Bronze
  • Chanel Mat Top Coat
You will also need a sponge. I use a small piece of a kitchen sponge. It's cheaper than make-up sponges, and I like the somewhat more porous texture created.
2. Start out with a full coat of a copper shade. I used Nails Inc Old Park Lane, which is a nice one-coater. You don't have to be neat - any little mistake is easily hidden later. Let it dry.
3. Sponge a dark turquoise a bit more than halfway down your nail. Make the line a bit uneven or undulating. If you only have one cyan/turqouise shade, mix it up with some darker blue or green to make a darker shade. Let it dry completely before sponging again, as it otherwise is easy to sponge away chunks of underlying polish!
4. Sponge your lighter shade almost down to the line of the darker one. I used the almost-Tiffany-blue For Audrey from China Glaze. Don't be afraid to build up a sponged texture - real verdigris builds up and are scraped of copper plates! If you use one cyan shade, this is when you use it unmixed. Let dry.
5. Sponge light green on randomly, close to the edge and possibly a few light sponges right on top of your copper. I used a lighter pastel pistachio/marzipan colour. For all these steps, I use the same corner of the sponge as a bit of mixing between the colours just adds to the effect. Let dry.
6. Sponge some medium turquoise on the green. Sponge it on to your liking, and add some randomly on top of the copper.
7. Now add matte top coat on top of the verdigris shades. Add it only on the cyan shades and be careful not to accidentally matte the copper. This step is what really lifts the design in my opinion. Let dry.
8. Now sponge some copper or bronze randomly on both the verdigris and the copper. Be careful to not have too much polish on the sponge. I like to use the dried up corner from the other sponging steps, as it gives an interesting spotted appearance. I used my bronze shade for this step, as the two shimmery shades makes it more interesting - but using the same copper as in step 2 is of course fine. Remember not to use top coat as you have a partly matte, partly shiny mani!


  1. This is amazing! I love the chemistry tie-in

  2. Gorgeous, and thank you for including the chemistry!

  3. Hello! I love this look and want to use it for my wedding. What gel/shellac colors would you suggest to use for the same effect? Thanks!